2016 Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD - SAV Signed By MX-5 Miata - Quick Review

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(Contributing Editor: Tomasz Paluch, Roadblazing.com)

WISH: bringing home to the wife (or husband) & four kids a brand new deep Soul Red Mazda MX-5  repleted with a big white ribbon.

PROBLEM: Then imagine the frying pan (or power tool) hitting you over the noggins.

SOLUTION: the all-new 2016 Mazda CX-9.

It's a thorough re-design of the brand's 3-Row Sports Activity Vehicle.

The new Mazda CX-9 is that rare successful infusion of what can otherwise be a bland Active Family Lifestyle convyeance with KODO ("Soul of Motion") + JINBA ITTAI ("Oneness With Steed").

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WHAT: 2016 Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD   3-Row Sports Activity Vehicle.

Standard Power: transverse 2.5L DOHC 16V DI variable nozzle turbocharged gas I-4 = 250 hp/ 310 lb-ft @ 2000 rpm+ 6-speed torque converter planetary automatic transaxle.

Note: Using 87 RON octane unleaded = net horsepower drops to 227.

WHAT (A) STYLING DIFFERENCE: A-pillars have been pushed and swept back; A long hood with taller fenders meet a protruding 5-point U-grille, extending to slimmer eyebrow housings; Lower fascia more upright rather than receding flowing to vertically slatted LED DRLs; Overall the front = "Mako Shark"; Pushed back A-pillars + deeper rear door cheatline channels +Tapering roof meeting rising beltline with a Hofmeister kink gives illusion of shorter green house; Taller rear quarter panels adopts the the taller upright liftgate frame blending into the bumper cover, rather than culminating in a load floor recess; Thinner LED housings are bridged by a chrome accent bar, The roof spoiler has is a more integrated body color matching housing, Lower rear fascia w/ twin tail pipes cladding accentuates the corners with reflectors; Overall the rear = rising upwards like a star.

WHY: Ever try squeezing 7 people inside an MX-5 Miata?

WHEN: On-Sale (in the U.S.) since late Spring 2016

WHERE: Mazda new vehicle dealers

WHERE MADE: Aki, Hiroshima, Japan

WHERE TO: Optional multi-plate wet clutch, open differential all-wheel drive, e-varies front/ rear traction from 100/0% - lockable at maximum 50/50%, with ABS descent control. nearly 9"-inches clearance = gully crossing certifiable.

HOW ROADWORTHY: Skyactiv 2.5L turbocharged DOHC DI gas 4-cylinder flows more torque & sooner than the V6 it replaces; Throttle is passive making  6-speed planetary automatic work harder to keep wastegate boost up; Responsive dampers rebound slow over road irregularities while stiffening against pitching; High center of gravity/ short wheelbase compels some body lean in tightest bends but without excessive nose plow; Heavier but slower than expected electric steer assist leaves road grip less filtered; Short brake pedal travel starts with timidity transitioning to wooden tenacity ; Large tires generate some penetrating harmonics at high speed otherwise cabin is a cavern against wind and (unfortunately) one of the most mellifluous four-banger shrieks as full throttle.

HOW FAR: 23 combined miles per gallon = 15% > 3-row Hyundai Santa Fe 3.3L V6

HOW BIG/ LITTLE: fits 5 adult occupants + 2 small children in Row 3;   Perpendicular and 20'-foot garage parking friendly; -1 2nd Row pitch is dramatically compromised to achieve Munchkin suitable 3rd row acomodations; -1  3rd Row cushion is too low:  Sharp raked roof + Panoramic roof devours beehive hairdos and diminishes room for  "Junk in the Trunk";

HOW USEFUL: Chrome metal load floor skid plate; near flat folding 60/40% split 2nd Row tilting seatbacks; -1 Forward visibility from bulging fenders / -1 Outward rear visibility from small backlight; Tow Rating: 3,500 lbs.

HOW SAFE: 8 airbags; IIHS Safety Pick +; Rear camera; sonar front & rear Park Assist, Roll Mitigation, i-Activesense suite: Rear cross traffic warning, adjustable sensitivity Blind spot & Lane departure warning, City traffic collision avoidance braking; Frontal collision warning, partially Adaptive cruise control.

HOW PEOPLE FRIENDLY: Variable heated  driver/ front passenger seats; 6-way power driver's ; Heated steering; leather steering wheel with spoke mounted redundant controls; Semi toggle-style center stack switches and metallic tipped door switchgear; Contrast stitching;

Cool Gizmo(s): Key-fob proximity hands-free power liftgate & power folding wing mirrors;  Panoramic roof;  windshield projected HUD display (limited in height adjustment).

Details Done Right genuine Rosewood & aluminum cabin trim; Convex metallic dash corner vents blend into convex door latch bezels;  Generous contrasting Auburn leather & synthetic leather trim in cockpit;  Jewel action media screen controller.

Nearly Non-Descript-1 Auto climate and secondary switchgear borrowed from lesser Mazda's,  -1  Steering wheel spoke redundant controls appear "Added-On";  -1 Multi-information gauge display lacks poly-chromic graphics and settings;

HOW "APP" -LICABLE: 8" capacitive touch LCD infotainment screen; Precision finished & acting rotary Command control dial flanked by direct action switches; Voice command hands-free communications; 3-D SD GPS navigation ; Subscription based Sirius XM radio;  Bose 12 speaker audio system features expressive sound stage but still bass muddy; MazdaConnect Apps: AHA, Pandora, Stitcher, Real-time traffic USB x 4, 12V x 3.

HOW MUCH: $45, 215 = fully loaded 2016 Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD ; base front-drive CX-9 Sport = $32,420.

WHAT'S MISSING: > 2nd & 3rd Row legroom, Cargo management; Ventilated front, heated Row 2 seats; Android Auto/ Apple Car Play, 115V outlet, Faster SMS Messaging contact populating.

ANY COMPETITION: Ford Flex: +1 rarer, More of a wagon, cargo space; GMC Acadia Denali: +1 truck heritage, OnStar telematics, off-road capability, 4G LTE; Kia Sorento SXL 3.3L: +1 chiseled face, value; Nissan Pathfinder: +1 V6, EZ-Go 3rd row access, Infinti QX60 bits; Toyota Highlander: +1 2nd Row legroom, available gas-electric hybrid, ride compliance.

SUMMED UP: The 2016 Mazda CX-9 is more than just another pretty faced SUV. It has a newfound attention to detail and exudes enough passion to convert the most ardent anti-crosover enthusiast; Some luxury brand Sports Activity Vehicles should be more than a little worried.

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